Reviewed the tape of the Jets' 30-21 loss to the Patriots. Thoughts and observations:
ENOUGH SCHOTTS?: A lot of folks were upset with O.C. Brian Schottenheimer because the Jets didn't throw more often against the league's worst pass defense. As Rex Ryan explained, they were intent on running the ball and used their "regular" personnel more than usual, cutting back on their three-receiver packages. But here's a stat that suggests they should've gone to more three-wide formations:
QB Mark Sanchez recorded his second-highest passer rating in 3+ WR formations, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Mind you, the Patriots' pass defense began the day as the worst in the league against 3+ WR packages (8.9 yards per pass attempt).
Sanchez's numbers with 3+ WR on the field:
Completion percentage -- 73.3
Yds/attempt -- 7.7
TD/INT -- 2-0
Passer rating -- 134.7
THIRD-DOWN BLAME: The Jets were awful on third down, failing on their first four tries and finishing 3-for-11. Was there a common thread? Not really.
There was a poor throw by Sanchez (to TE Dustin Keller), a drop by FB John Conner, a late blitz pick-up by RB LaDainian Tomlinson (that resulted in an incompletion) and poor pass protection by the O-line out of an empty set (sack).
And, yes, Schottenheimer deserves some blame, too. On a third-and-6, the Jets went "empty," sending five into pass routes. Problem was, all five ran short routes -- to the sticks or short of the sticks. It's like they anticipated a blitz, but the Patriots rushed only three. Sanchez completed a pass to WR Jeremy Kerley, but for only four yards.
The two third-down conversions were well-designed plays. On a third-and-2 from the Patriots' 16, the Jets ran a "bunch" formation and confused the Patriots, with WR Plaxico Burress getting open on a shallow cross. Actually, Kerley was wide open in the middle of the field and would've scored easily if Sanchez had spotted him. Turns out they scored anyway on Shonn Greene's three-yard run.
Later, Santonio Holmes' 21-yard TD grab came on a third-and-7. He ran a great route, shaking CB Kyle Arrington with a head fake on a corner route. It was great anticipation by Sanchez, who delivered the ball on the money.
SECOND-GUESSING THE GAME PLAN: Schottenheimer is taking a lot of heat for running too much against the Patriots' porous secondary. Frankly, I didn't have a problem with the run-pass ratio. Yeah, maybe they got a little stubborn in the second half, continuing to run on first down even though they weren't as successful as the first half. But, clearly, Ryan wanted to go Ground & Pound to shorten the game and limit Tom Brady's touches -- and it might have worked if the defense had delivered a late stop.
The problem I had with the game plan wasn't how often they threw the ball, but how they threw it. They attempted only two passes over 20 yards, Holmes' TD and the sideline incompletion to Burress (the catch that was overturned by replay). The Patriots were sitting on the short routes all day; the Jets should've tried to stretch the field. It's hard to believe they couldn't find a way to pick on former Jets S James Ihedigbo, never known for his pass coverage. He played the entire game because of an injury to the starter.
CHECK MATE: Ryan said it would be a chess match, and he was right -- except he and D.C. Mike Pettine made the wrong moves on the Patriots' final possession -- a 13-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a game-clinching FG.
Thinking Brady would throw, the Jets used seven DBs on the first four plays, and the Patriots ran for eight, three, 15 and six yards against the smaller personnel. That gave them the momentum. Finally, the Jets got their run stoppers in the game and they got the Patriots into a third-and-4 -- and got fooled again.
The Patriots went with four WRs and the Jets countered with 6 DBs. They were thinking pass, and the Patriots gashed them for 14 yards with a direct snap to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That put the Patriots into FG range. Game over.
Throughout the game, the Jets were so concerned by Brady that they put six or fewer defenders in the box on 58 of 79 snaps, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Green-Ellis capitalized on the extra room, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown in those situations.
SWINGS AND MISSES: The Jets missed an inordinate number of tackles -- eight, according to my count. Those missed accounted for 68 extra yards. DT Mike DeVito, one of the best run stoppers, missed tackles on back-to-back plays. S Jim Leonhard also missed two tackles.
ODDS AND ENDS: Here's the downside to LB Aaron Maybin. As soon as he came into the game, on a second-and-24, the Patriots ran an inside draw for eight yards, hitting the gap vacated by Maybin on his outside rush ... CB Kyle Wilson is a tenacious tackler. You won't find too many cornerbacks more physical than him. He's still lacking ball awareness, especially in all-out blitz situations ... Tomlinson made a great block on former Jets DE Shaun Ellis on the nine-yard TD pass to Kerley. It was a well-designed rollout by Sanchez; there should've been more of those ... Excellent block by LG Matt Slauson on Greene's 3-yard TD run ... CB Antonio Cromartie got caught napping on Deion Branch's 2-yard TD catch. If you're wondering why Brady had all day to throw, it's because the Jets rushed only three.